UK Politics

Nigel Farage hits back at defecting MEP Amjad Bashir

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Media captionNigel Farage: "An extra £3bn a year for the NHS, funded out of the fact that we will not be paying daily membership fees to the European Union"

An MEP who has defected to the Conservatives had "reached the end of the road" with UKIP, party leader Nigel Farage has said.

Amjad Bashir was suspended by UKIP over various allegations - all of which he denies - shortly before announcing his defection on Saturday.

He quit after criticising UKIP's "ridiculous" lack of policies.

On the BBC's Andrew Marr show, Mr Farage also said UKIP would commit an extra £3bn per year in NHS funding.

The party said it would raise the cash by quitting the EU and through "middle management" cuts.

In his interview, Mr Farage also said:

  • UKIP would win "more than three or four" seats at the general election.
  • Comments by UKIP official Matthew Richardson that the party stood for "bigots" were a joke while he was having a drink in the pub.
  • Attempts to paint UKIP as a racist party were "dead".
  • UKIP were unlikely to join a post-election coalition, but that he could "potentially" do a deal with David Cameron over an EU referendum.
  • For agreement to be reached on a referendum, there would have to be equal spending limits and only British citizens would be allowed to vote.
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Media captionAmjad Bashir: "UKIP don't want the defection to be seen as a major event"

Mr Bashir, a former Conservative, was elected as a UKIP MEP last year.

Before the defection was announced, UKIP suspended him and said he was being investigated for matters including "unanswered financial and employment questions" and "interference" with candidate selection processes.

Mr Bashir said he was taking legal advice in relation to UKIP's accusations, accusing his former party of trying to "muddy the waters and and accuse me of things that are totally wrong".

He added: "They don't want my defection to be seen as a major event, that's why they've done this."


Analysis

By Robin Brant, political correspondent

Image copyright Getty Images

Tucked away in that Marr appearance was a significant announcement on the NHS.

UKIP's new pledge to spend an extra £3bn a year is an about turn for Nigel Farage. Gone was his message that ring-fencing NHS spending after the general election is "ridiculous", replaced instead by support for what George Osborne has already promised, and then some.

This will please UKIP MP Douglas Carswell, who has said the party must pledge to spend more. It seems he's won the battle with the leader - and former policy chief Tim Aker - who both made it clear that cuts to NHS spending were not off the table.

Some will suspect a tactical move though, announced on a difficult weekend, to see them through the election campaign, but maybe not beyond.

And it's not clear where the extra £3bn will come from. The party's economic spokesman Patrick O'Flynn has suggested gains from leaving the EU and cutting the aid budget would help.

But he 'spent' that money when he unveiled UKIP's plan to increase the personal allowance and cut income tax at the party conference.


Mr Farage said he had become "increasingly alarmed" by Mr Bashir's behaviour in recent months.

"Whichever way we look at this, he had reached the end of the road with us," he said, adding that his "only surprise" was that the Conservatives had accepted him.

'Desperate stuff'

And he said reports of the the comments by Mr Richardson, the party's secretary and a member of its national executive council, were an example of "tribal politics" involving the big two parties and "their friends in the media".

In footage released by the Labour Party from 2010, Mr Richardson also described the NHS as "the biggest waste of money in the whole United Kingdom".

Mr Farage said the speech had been given when Mr Richardson was a Conservative.

Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps described Mr Bashir's suspension by UKIP as "desperate stuff".

He told the Sunday Politics: "All of this stuff has been out there for a long time."

Mr Farage was "trying to muddy the waters" of Mr Bashir's defection, he said, describing the MEP as "mainstream".

NHS pledge

UKIP's health policy has come under scrutiny following the emergence of a 2012 recording in which Mr Farage advocated an "insurance-based system of healthcare".

He later said his idea had been rejected by his party, and recently told the BBC how to pay for the NHS was "a debate that we're all going to have to return to".

Mr Farage told the Andrew Marr show he wanted the NHS to be "better-run", saying it was in "crisis" because of a rise in the population.

UKIP said Mr Farage would set out how the money would be spent in a "major speech" on the NHS.

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